Pope may not be bowing out completely, religious expert says

(CBS News) Pope Benedict XVI may not be bowing out of the public eye as completely as has been reported, according to one religious expert.

Benedict has promised his "unconditional reverence and obedience" to the new pope, and will be barred from making any public statements. However, it is widely-held that his successor may take advantage of having a former pope close by to consult, and perhaps find some sympathy for the job he's taken on.

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Noting the decision to carry the name "Pope Emeritus," to continue living in Vatican City and to wear white, Candida Moss, a professor of Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, said it may suggest the Benedict isn't going to completely walk away from religious leadership.

"(Those facts) don't suggest he's going to bow out of the Vatican affairs. He's still going to be there to some extent and he could have made it easier for the next pope," she said on "CBS This Morning."

But Moss said the pope does seem to want to mark a new start for the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, particularly with respect to some embroiled in the sex scandals that have dogged the church for years.

"American Catholics have seen him essentially as a traditional pope, maintaining a hard-line position on contraception, abortion, and gay marriage, but perhaps not speaking enough to the kinds of issues, the sort of broken trust that many American Catholics feel in the wake of the sex scandals," Moss said.

Asked what the pope has done concerning the scandals, Moss said, "Benedict has been very clear that we need to sanction bishops, we need to take action against those bishops who colluded in covering up these scandals.

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"(Pope Benedict's) record is pretty good. So for example, with Cardinal O'Brien, it seems like his resignation was moved up so he wouldn't be a part of this conclave, so that he wouldn't be contributing to the selection of the next pope because of the scandals that have dogged the church. It seems Benedict himself wanted sort of a fresh start now. That said, many people feel he could have gone further, particularly in reforming the Roman Curia (the administrative apparatus of the Holy See and the central governing body of the entire Catholic Church) and in bringing about greater transparency."

For more with Moss on the Catholic Church going forward, as well as discussion about the new pope, watch the video in the player above.

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